Taking tongue-in-cheek aim at all things rural, Redneck Rampage is a 3D first-person shooter that uses the Duke Nukem engine. The game takes place in the bogus town of Hickston, Arkansas, where aliens have kidnapped the locals and replaced them with killer clones. Several weapons, including bear traps, double-barreled shotguns, and dynamite, are available to help you battle these invaders. There are 14 levels to blast through, including Stanky's Bar & 'ill, a trailer park, and a mortuary. This humorous rampage gives new meaning to the phrase "Southern hospitality."
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"Look yonder, Bubba. Seems them dang ole space aliens done landed on Buford's farm."
"Hold onto yer butt, Skeeter, I'm openin' up a can o' whoopass on them boys!"
So goes the simple premise of the off-color new first-person shooter, Redneck Rampage, the creation of Xatrix Entertainment. You've seen shooters set in dungeons; you've fought your way through city streets and the saloons of the Old West. In Redneck Rampage your mission is to free the back roads of the American Deep South, which, as Bubba and Skeeter indicated, have fallen into the clutches of some ugly green "furriners" -- aliens that is, lizard folk.
From a story standpoint, Redneck represents a new twist on an aging genre -- an infectious twist, too: I defy anyone to play Redneck Rampage for even a few minutes and not step away talking like Jed Clampett. But the game itself doesn't do much to push the genre forward, doesn't do anything new to speak of. It's a fact that when a style -- in movies, music, art, video games -- has been done long enough that it has grown familiar, the final step is into satire. And that's what you get in Redneck Rampage -- a clever spoof of the Doom genre. It's the of first-person shooters.
There really is nothing new in the approach Redneck Rampage takes to the first-person shooter. Just as in Doom or Quake, the object is to run frantically through various settings picking off the bad elements before they pick you off, finding new weapons and power-ups along the way. What's new is the specifics of the game -- they're very entertaining. First of all, as the name Redneck Rampage would suggest, the setting is outdoor rural America. You can play downtown in a small southern hamlet, blowing away slow-talking, evil shopkeepers and their hairy-backed good-old-boy sidekicks, or you can choose to fight your way through the outskirts -- barns and livestock pens populated by the hairy-backed, coverall-wearin', scattergun-totin' fellers, as well as a multitude of chickens, hogs and the occasional space alien.
Xatrix Entertainment has left no stereotype of the American South untouched in creating Redneck Rampage. Power-ups and health sources, for example, which in other games might include first aid kits or armor, in Redneck Rampage take the form of bags of fried pork rinds and jugs of moonshine whiskey. Using the power-ups can yield an unexpected and comic impact on the game. Gather enough whiskey to drive your "whiskey meter" to 100%, for example, and suddenly your screen goes blurry and your controls no longer work properly. Eat enough pork rinds and moon pies and you can drive your gut-o-meter (displayed at the lower right of the screen) to 100%. With a 100% gut, you're harder to kill. In this game, your flab is your armor.
Xatrix has also done a good job using the rural setting as inspiration for some interesting new weapons. You've got your standard shotgun, of course, but you'll also find a hunting rifle, plenty of dynamite, a dynamite-shooting crossbow, a ripsaw gun that shoots saw blades -- and then there's the Teat Gun. I'll let you figure that one out yourself, but here's a hint: if this was a real weapon it might quickly become the favorite revenge of any woman who felt men were not looking her quite in the eyes, if you catch my drift.
For some, the innovation of the setting and the comic handling of power-ups and other elements of the game will be enough to make Redneck Rampage a long-standing favorite. On the other hand, I found myself getting bored with the game after the novelty of it had worn off. Quake and Outlaws from LucasArts do the first-person shooter better. Outlaws is particularly interesting since it establishes a real story behind all the fighting; you understand in Outlaws why you find yourself with a gun in your hand. _Redneck Rampage _makes only a passing and extremely minor effort to establish any explanation for why you do what you do. The game begins with a very short (15 seconds at the most) cut-scene of a fleet of sinister-looking flying saucers descending toward Earth. There's some mention of the space alien connection in the documentation for the game too.
So it can't be said that the game lacks a story entirely. But, c'mon, aliens? Again? Xatrix could have done much better. They could have pitted the city folk against the rednecks or put us in the middle of a Hatfield and McCoy situation. There are plenty of story options that could have taken better advantage of the rural, redneck setting. The fact that Xatrix chose to base the action on alien invasion and then made almost no effort to establish even that silly story is evidence that story simply wasn't important to them. It should have been. The first-person shooter genre is getting mighty tired these days, and story is one of the only places left for real innovation. It would have been nice to see Xatrix take the time with Redneck Rampage to create a game that builds toward some climax. Scene could have built on scene, goal could have led to goal, we could have been given a real mission so that playing the game meant trying to progress toward a real end. Outlaws does that. Interstate 76 does that. Redneck Rampage doesn't, and consequently it will be forgotten pretty quickly; a Southern-fried flash in the pan. At best a good example of a missed opportunity.
Redneck Rampage supports both modem and Internet play, and it's the game's multiplayer capabilities that save it from being completely one-dimensional. Any time you introduce the element of another human opponent into a game, you dramatically increase the game's replayability and entertainment possibilities. Xatrix should be commended for their creativity and ingenuity in the multiplayer portion of Redneck Rampage. The game offers an amazing variety of multiplayer settings and it's here that Xatrix finally does take advantage of the possibilities in the redneck setting. I was continually surprised and entertained by the twists from one setting to another. You can play in a mortuary, a factory, a train station, even a trailer park complete with bowling alley where you can swap your shotgun for a ball and bowl a few frames. As good as the settings were, I did find that some of the settings are much too big for two players. Too much time is spent in some of the settings just looking for the other guy.
The strongest weapons available in Redneck Rampage and two that proved extremely effective during multiplayer (mostly against me) are the ripsaw gun and the Alien Arm Gun -- a huge, ugly tool that shoots blue electric bolts with deadly accuracy. Invariably it happened that the first person to find the saw gun or the alien arm won the round. Ultimately, that became really frustrating. Partly I'm frustrated because I was seldom the winner in the race to either gun. But those of us who played multiplayer all felt the weapons were too easy to find, and too powerful once you did find them. To include weapons that so completely skew the playing field is fine, but they should be either very difficult to find, limited in their range or taxing to use. As it is, the player with the saw can stand at one end of the street, fire a blade at an opponent a whole city block away and hit him right between the eyes. Same with the Arm. And he can do that all day long. That kind of unevenness eventually makes Redneck Rampage discouraging to play in multiplayer mode.
Redneck Rampage's strength is in its humor, not in its graphics. That's not to imply that the graphics are a mess, but they aren't anything special, either. Whether you're playing in the downtown setting, running between buildings, or the outskirts, navigating the barnyard, there isn't a whole lot of variety in what you see. Redneck Rampage suffers the same formlessness, the blocky pixelation, of the walls at the edges of the gaming environment that you find in other Doom clones and that seems to have become the accepted standard. Development was done using the 3D Realms graphics engine, the same engine that produced Duke Nukem 3D. So graphically speaking, Redneck Rampage looks a little outdated.
Though the look of your adversaries is, perhaps, not technically a matter of graphics, it should be pointed out that in your redneck opponents there is not much variety. Invariably you encounter one of two redneck types in single player mode: either the skinny old bald coot or the giant overalled sort. They're really placeholders, targets. And in multiplayer mode everyone looks the same -- tall, lanky, blue jeans and a baseball cap. The lack of variety means that you never really get a sense of character, the sense that you're going up against someone real with different tendencies and tactics.
Here Redneck Rampage really shines. The game offers a soundtrack featuring artists like Mojo Nixon, Beat Farmers, and The Reverend Horton Heat, and you can pop the CD into an audio CD player if all you want to do is listen to the music. Even more fun than the music, though, are the in-game sounds that help create the setting. Some are repetitive and predictable like the old coot's "I'm gonna gitcha!" that he screams like a mantra gone bad. But others are unpredictable and really funny. Your characters react to getting shot with all manner of curses; they'll celebrate the discovery of a particularly effective weapon with a heartfelt "hot damn!" or a warning to "Hold onto yer butt."
In addition to being fun to listen to, the audio is also of good quality. The music is clear, the voices not at all garbled. And one nice feature of the audio is that different songs are "attached" to different areas of the game. So when you walk into Stanky's bar you're nearly blasted out of your boots by music, but as soon as you wander down the road a bit the music fades away and all you hear are the sounds of rural America: hogs, chickens, the occasional gun blast.
Redneck Rampage uses the standard keyboard/mouse combination for movement and firing. You can also use a joystick if that's more your style. Controls are easy to master.
Xatrix should be commended for a very clever approach to documentation. The game comes with a reference card that can be helpful during setup and starting the game in DOS, but the real innovation is in the game's manual. Xatrix has presented everything you need to know about the game -- story, controls, monster descriptions, tips -- in the form of a supermarket tabloid (which everyone knows is the favorite reading material of rednecks both large and small). The writers have done a nice job with the tabloid manual of balancing entertainment with the need for quick, easy reference. I found myself reading the manual just for fun and laughs at times. But in the heat of a bitter multiplayer battle, when my survival meant hitting just the right key, I was able to open the manual and find what I needed almost instantly. The documentation is very well-done.
Minimum: A Pentium P90 or faster with 16MB RAM, PCI or local bus SVGA video card, 150 MB free space on a hard disk drive, and a CD-ROM drive
Recommended: A Pentium P166 with 32 MB RAM, a PCI or local bus SVGA video card, 150 MB free space on a hard disk drive, a CD-ROM drive, and a sound card with "kick-ass ear-bleeding self-powered speakers."
You'll notice that Redneck Rampage requires 150 MB free hard drive space. That's a mammoth amount of space and might be enough reason to stay away from this game. Depending on your system, you may need to remove a lot of your favorite programs just to get this one to install.
I really enjoyed playing Redneck Rampage and will probably leave it on my hard drive for some time to come. Not because it takes the first person genre to a new level, though; it really doesn't do much of anything to move the genre forward. Redneck Rampage relies on the pre-established models of the first-person shooter. It introduces some nice twists, but it's still safely within the lines drawn by earlier, more innovative shooters. Redneck Rampage is simply an entertaining game, good for some mindless fun a couple of times a week and it does make me laugh. However, if you're looking for the best shooter for your money you're still better off picking up Quake. And Outlaws has much more to offer in creativity and innovation. Had Xatrix taken better advantage of the rural setting -- opening up the gaming environment to let you chase opponents through cornfields -- or used the rural setting as the basis for an original story, the game would score better than the 79 that I give it. I like the humor and the game is just plain fun, but it could have been a lot better.